Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rest in Peace Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, militant pundit, dies at 62

No doubt this is one of many similar entries all over the blogosphere right now. So be it.

I don't know if I should admit this, but I've actually read very little of Christopher Hitchens. (The only book of his I've read cover to cover is "The Trial of Henry Kissinger".) I find his verbose style a little bit hard to swallow in writing, and I much prefer hearing him speak than reading him. This probably says something about my limited intellect and limited reading abilities.

But I love hearing Hitchens speak. There was about a 2 year period in Japan (when my social life was a bit slow) when I became addicted to listening to him on youtube. In fact over a two year period I spent more hours watching his debates on youtube than I care to admit. Agree with him or disagree with him, he's got a razor sharp tongue and it's always a pleasure to see what biting comeback he will have to whatever remark is thrown at him.

I don't think there's anyone out there who agrees with Christopher Hitchens about everything. He's made a career of not towing the party line, and probably everyone has some dearly held issue he's trampled on.

I passionately disagreed with him on the Iraq War, and wondered how someone so smart could advocate for such a stupid war.
I've heard him recite his reasons for supporting the war ad infinitum, but I never really bought them. I know totalitarian Islamic societies have their problems, but Hitchens has forgotten Robespierre's quote

"The most extravagant idea that can arise in a politician's head is to believe that it is enough for a people to invade a foreign country to make it adopt their laws and their constitutions. No one loves armed missionaries."

Call me cynical, but I still suspect Hitchens was motivated to support that war partly just because of a love off all the attention it brought him. It's the only explanation I can think of to explain the motives behind a man who, in his earlier writings, appeared to clearly understand just how little genuine humanitarian concerns motivate foreign wars.

On the plus side, I found Hitchens thoughts on Jefferson and Trotsky fascinating to listen to. I loved his take downs of Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. And I loved listening to him debate on religion. In fact I think hours of watching Hitchens talk about religion have helped me to move from an ambivalent agnosticism to a more militant agnosticism, so I can claim him as an influence on my own thoughts. I'll miss hearing about him.

Update: Back in this post, I stated that based on my own personal experience talking to Brits, many of them don't even know who Christopher Hitchens is.
At my new place of work, this continues to be true. When news of Christopher Hitchens' death went around the office, all the Americans and Australians knew who he was, but none of the British people I talked to did. Granted this is a completely unscientific survey, but it just may indicate that Christopher Hitchens was much better known across the sea than in his native land.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky at Occupy Boston

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